Saturday, July 09, 2005

but what do you do when Jesus is attractional?

One of the big dualisms offered by some in the emerging church is that of attractional as against incarnational (here for instance). We are told that the church is attractional in Christendom and so a move beyond Christendom necessitates a commitment to incarnational.

So what do we do with Jesus and the gospels? I’ve been pondering Luke 15 today. Three things are lost – coin, sheep, and two sons. Twice the Jesus response is to go look – for a coin or a sheep. Sounds incarnational. So far, so good.

But once – for two sons – the Jesus response is to prepare a hospitable welcome and wait. Not to “Incarnationally” leave the house or the building, but simply wait. And in time, to find that outrageous love and hospitality will become mission.

The mission to one lost son is to offer love. The mission to the other lost son (the churchgoers who have never left) is to challenge them to join the joyous party happening in their building. Sounds like attractional mission to me. Sounds like mission to those using the building to me.

For a sermon I preached on the prodigal son last year go here.

Posted by steve at 05:45 PM


  1. Hi Steve

    As one of the people who have advocated this distinction I need to say that when Mike and myself describe our predominant experience of church as being primarily attractional, we are not saying that the church should not be ‘attractive’ (communities should be attractive) but rather that we should not define our missional modality by requiring that people always come to us to hear the gospel. So much of the way we do church vitiates against missional poximity and engagement with our contexts.

    Comment by Alan Hirsch — July 9, 2005 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Isn’t the difference that the Father is inviting the sons into the kingdom, not into a particular expression of the local church?

    So, if I go out it is to invite people into God’s party. It is not to give them an invite to a service where I can then preach at them.

    (Putting it like that, it sounds like I’m downplaying Church or creating a dichotomy between Church & Kingdom, but I can’t think of another way to express it.)

    Comment by graham — July 9, 2005 @ 11:16 pm

  3. To me it speaks of a state of mind with regards mission rather than actual mission output.

    Incarnational mission by its nature will be attractive in that it demonstrates the kingdom. However I struggle with a correlation that says incarnational mission is only church without walls.

    To me an incarnational church would missed by its surrounding community – due to its active daily grace centred loving of that community – rather than its sunday singing crew, (or even U2, bean bags, AV and candles participants).

    Getting the sales pitch and brand right and sitting back and waiting for the car park to fill up speaks to me of ‘attractional’.

    This within the context of Hirsch & Frost’s dialogue on being attractional.

    “…we are amazed at the number of times, when asked to discuss specific ways they can recalibrate themselves to become missional churches, they begin talking about how to change their Sunday service. It betrays their fundamental allegiance to being attractional…”

    Comment by gordon — July 10, 2005 @ 6:43 am

  4. Hi Steve, thanks for your question!
    I think that the parable of the lost son shows the attractional mode of the father – and he is really attractive given the context of his house (temple) to the context in which jesus is set there. In Jesus there is a union of attraction (people came to him from everywhere because he was relevant and stuff) and incarnation (it was his nature – how could he be otherwise?).
    If “shaping of things to come” (wonderful book) emphasises the incarnational mode than it’s due to the overstressing of the attractional mode (like willow creek, if I understand them correctly) – it is just a way of balancing things out, which is desperatly needed. But it is refreshing now and then to have a voice speaking that the attractional mode wasn’t all that wrong – I very much enjoy your posts – thanks a lot for keeping me thinking 😉

    Comment by Bjoern Wagner — July 12, 2005 @ 4:58 am

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